Big Picture (TV And Otherwise)

Back when the average person wasn't guaranteed enough to eat, to be visibly well-fed was a sign of wealth. We still tend to think of "fat" and "wealthy" as synonyms, in fact.

Columns From: 10/1/2000 Modern Machine Shop, ,

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Peter Zelinski

Back when the average person wasn't guaranteed enough to eat, to be visibly well-fed was a sign of wealth. We still tend to think of "fat" and "wealthy" as synonyms, in fact. When we call the rich "fat cats," we recall that earlier time.

But the times changed. As innovative people found better ways to grow and distribute food, costs declined. Now, food is so cheap in our society, people at all income levels take it for granted . . . and no one cares to look abundantly well-fed anymore. Instead, rich and poor alike would rather look as though they eat just enough and no more.

What does this have to do with manufacturing? Perhaps a great deal, because the same trend may be at work here. Manufacturers large and small are also innovating. They're finding better ways to produce. And though the savings are often small, those savings add up. As a result, the "real" cost of manufactured goods continues to fall. Measured in terms of the hours the average citizen has to work to be able to purchase them, goods like televisions, toasters, tableware and hosts of others have never been cheaper.

Where will it all lead? If food production offers the example, then eventually we will all be taking things for granted, as well.

We're not to that point yet. In our day and age, those with less money often covet expensive things . . . and those with more money often "flaunt it" through conspicuous purchases—a luxurious car, say, or a big-screen TV—that don't really bring them more happiness.

Our descendants may find such behavior absurd. To them, a small TV may cost a pittance and an enormous TV may cost only a little more than a pittance, so what does it matter which one you buy? Our many-times-great grandchildren likely will just obtain whatever item they want or need without much thought, use the thing, and promptly get rid of it as soon as they're done. These same people might look disapprovingly at someone who would gather a whole houseful of goods just for the sake of having more. That will be the future version of a glutton.

As I say, we're not to that point yet. And I'd bet you're not thinking in these terms when you try to make your own process better. Even so, by helping your shop to produce a little more efficiently, you may also be helping to bring about a change in the very way we think about these manufactured goods that surround us every day.

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